First – My First Genealogy Experience and Discoveries

Happy New Year! I am very excited to start a second year of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I only hope that I don’t run out of ancestors or stories to tell! If anything, this project has showed me how much more research I need to do on all of my family members!

My “first” post is about my first foray into genealogy and my early discoveries that got me hooked on researching my family.

My fourth great grandparents, McCama and Margaret Robinson, had 8 children. Two died as children, one was killed in the Civil War and was unmarried, two daughters never married, and two other daughters married but never had children. This leaves only one son, Samuel, who married and had one child. Over the ensuing 115 years, each new generation produced only one child. So when I came along, I was the first girl born into the Robinson family since 1846!

This is both a fortunate and unfortunate situation. Fortunate because my parents inherited everything that belonged to the Robinson family, including the family Bible that Samuel gave to his wife Sallie on her birthday one year. Unfortunate because we don’t have any Robinson relatives on that side to the family! We have a few relatives on each of the wives’ sides, but that is it. This means we only have family stories told by my direct ancestors; nothing from brothers or sisters of any generation who might have had different stories, different opinions on family events, or different insights into the family in general.

But back to the fortunate. One of my favorite family heirlooms is the Robinson family Bible. It is quite large, heavy, with beautiful embossed leather. On the front, it is inscribed to Sallie C. Robinson for her birthday in 1875. Six generations of Robinsons are recorded in the Bible, but sadly, Samuel did not record his parents or Sallie’s. The only clue to their residence was a notation on the marriage page which said it took place at No. 63 Spruce Street in Nashville. I also have one newspaper article which announced Samuel and Sallie’s marriage. Luckily, it gave the name of her father, T.D. Cassetty, but it failed to give the name of her mother or anything about Samuel.

I knew about the existence of this Bible for many years, and no one in our family knew anything about Samuel or Sallie’s origins. So when I decided to begin researching our family, I started with Samuel and Sallie, my first brick walls.

Before I went to the archives in Nashville, I purchased an Ancestry.com subscription and searched the census records. I knew I was looking for a Samuel and Sallie Robinson in Nashville. As they were married in 1869, I began with the 1870 census. I found a “Sam and Sallie Robison” aged 34 and 28 respectively, living in a very large household. It included T.D. Cassetty, a magistrate, his wife Matilda, their five children, four borders, and five domestic servants. At first, I remember being really discouraged. By 1870, Samuel should have been 38 and Sallie 29, and Robinson was spelled incorrectly. Did I have the right people? The names and ages were close but not perfect. After reaching out to a fellow Cassetty researcher, I learned that ages were often wildly incorrect and names depended on what the census taker heard. That was my first lesson: historical records are not always perfect.

1870 Census

After I got over my initial hesitation, I couldn’t believe my luck! Not only did I find Sam and Sallie, but they were living in the same house as T.D. Cassetty, who was named as Sallie’s father in the marriage announcement. I was pretty sure that I found Sallie’s parents, but more information about them would take more research.

Ecstatic, I then searched the 1880 census for Sallie and Samuel. I found them living in Nashville with their 7 year old son in the house of a dry goods merchant. I later learned that Samuel never bought property; instead he moved from place to place, always renting.

The census records also told me something none of my family knew: Samuel Robinson was a printer. This was a huge discovery because my father and grandfather both owned printing companies, but neither of them knew that families members were involved in printing in the 19th century!

Sadly, Sallie died in 1886 and Samuel in 1891, so my census research could not go any farther into the future. At the time, Samuel remained a brick wall, but I did find Sallie living with her parents in the 1850-1860 censuses.

Another major research first came soon after: my first visit to the archives. I spent a day at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, which was only 30 minutes from my house, trying to find as much information about Samuel, Sallie, and the Cassettys as I could. The TSLA staff were so kind and helpful, that by the end, I had more information than I knew what to do with. I remember struggling to make the microfilm machines work, using the reference guides to find newspapers and death records, and pouring over the records to located their names. That day I found:

Death notices for Samuel, Sallie, and Sallie’s parents

Sallie Robinson’s death notice. It gives the names of her parents, T. D. and Matilda Cassetty.

City death records for Samuel, Sallie, and Sallie’s parents

Samuel Robinson death record.
Sallie Robinson death record.

Nashville City Directories that gave their addresses during their residence in Nashville.

I remember going home that night just so excited about what I had found out about the Robinsons. After that, I was completely hooked. I had to know more and more! To this day, the Robinsons hold a special place in my heart as the first part of my family that I researched. I was so inspired by my research that I later used Samuel’s grandmother, Ann Dixon, as the focus of my Master’s thesis. I think it is fair to say that genealogy changed my life and set me on my current career path. So cheers to a new year, and I hope I experience many more “firsts” in the year to come.

Nice – Matilda Apple Cassetty

Matilda Apple Cassetty is one of my ancestors with whom I am quite fascinated, and yet I can’t really say why that is. Possibly, it is because I know so little about her, despite the fact that I know an overwhelming amount about her husband and her son-in-law (both are also my ancestors). One of the few things that I know about her falls into the “nice” category, and that event I will of course expound upon in this post. But I also want to use this post as an opportunity to lay out what I know about her, what I wish I knew, and my theories as to her parentage.

Ancestry and Parentage

Matilda Apple was born about 1823 in either Jackson or Smith County, Tennessee. Jackson County suffered several courthouse fires, which is also incredibly frustrating for a genealogist, but much of Smith County’s records are in tact. This is what makes determining Matilda’s parents so difficult. I do know that she was married by the 1840 census to Thomas D. Cassetty, and they began their married life in Jackson County. The first census shows that Matilda is the young woman between 14 and 19 living in the household with T. D., who is between the ages of 20 and 29. Matilda must have married by the age of 17, if not slightly younger. No children were recorded in the house, indicating that they were likely newly married.

1840 Census, Jackson County, TN. Shows T.D. Cassetty and wife Matilda soon after their marriage.

The marriage records for both Jackson and Smith County begin late, so as far as I know, no record of marriage for T.D. and Matilda exists. However, I know that they were married from other sources like newspaper articles. Three of Matilda and T. D.’s children’s deaths were recorded by death certificates, and all three children give Matilda’s maiden name as Apple, as does a Who’s Who article about their son William Martin Cassetty. He was most likely the supplier of the information, and it is reasonable that he knew his mother’s maiden name.

So I know Matilda’s maiden name, approximate birth year and place of birth, but who are her parents? There were several Apple families living in the Jackson/Smith/Putnam County region of Tennessee during the 1830s-1850s, and all of them could trace their lineage back to Daniel Apple and Barbara Spoon. Several of their sons, including David Apple, George Washington Apple, and Daniel Apple Jr., migrated to Jackson and Smith County, Tennessee. All three brothers can be seen on the 1830 census in Tennessee:

David Apple

Males: 2 under 5, 1 5-9, 2 10-14, 2 15-19, 2 40-49 (one must be David)

Females: 1 under 5, 2 5-9, 2 10-14, 1 15-19, 1 20-29 (2nd wife Mary Thackson)

George Washington Apple

Males: 2 5-9, 1 10-14, 1 15-19, 1 30-39 (G.W. Apple)

Females: 2 under 5, 1 5-9, 1 10-14, 1 30-39 (wife Mary McDonald)

Daniel Apple Jr.

Males: 1 under 5, 3 5-9, 1 10-14, 1 30-39 (Daniel Apple Jr.)

Females: 3 15-19, 1 40-49

In 1830, Matilda was 7 years old and would be noted in the Females 5-9 column. Of the three brothers, only David and George have daughters between the age of 5-9. I can therefore eliminated Daniel Jr. as Matilda’s father.

George Washington Apple’s two daughters under 5 are undoubtedly Celina (born 1828) and Barbara (born 1830) who are recorded with their parents in the 1850 census in Jackson County. I don’t know for a fact that the other two females aren’t Matilda, but it seems likely they are not based on information from other family members. The older daughter is likely Elizabeth Apple who married a Holford, and the other is Eliza Jane who married George Ridley Holleman. It seems all the females in this household have been accounted for.

That leaves the household of David Apple. David had three sons with his first wife: Milton (born 1805), Anthony (born 1808), and Madison (born 1815) and at least two unknown daughters who were under 10 in the 1820 census. He married for a second time to Mary Thackson after the 1820 census, with whom he had at least 6 children 1830 and after, as well as one son, Jackson Carroll Apple (a Tennessee Senator whose parents are named in the Biographical Dictionary) born in 1825. This leaves several sons and at least 6 daughters in the 1830 census unaccounted for (the other children appear in the 1850 census). The two oldest are likely the two daughters found in the 1820 census. One of the unknown daughters of David and his second wife was a daughter between the ages of 5 and 9, the correct age for Matilda.

There are two other documents that I have found that support the idea that Matilda was a very close relative of David Apple and likely of Anthony Apple, David’s middle son by his first wife: 2 deeds between them and Matilda’s husband, T.D. Cassetty.

On 15 December 1842, Anthony Apple sold to T. D. Cassetty of Jackson County 50 acres of land in Smith County that also touched Anthony’s land. It would make sense that a young T.D. might purchase land from one of his wife’s relatives, especially early in the marriage.

The second document was a deed of trust written on 30 September 1843 and was made between Thomas D. Cassetty and David Apple. It reads:

I have this day bargained sold and by these presents do convey unto David Apple of the County of Putnam the following property to wit three feather beds steads & furniture one Beauro one press one folding leaf table one dressing table two trunks one clock house hold & kitchen furniture one shot gun two cows & calves one yoke of oxen one horse one mares saddle also one tract of land in district No 16 in Smith County lying on both sides of the Walton Road …to have and to hold to the agoresaid David Apple and his heirs forever Now this deed is made to secure tohe said Apple in the payment of two debts for which he is security for the undersigned one to the Bank of Tennessee for seventy two dollars one to the Academy at Gainsboro for two hundrend and seven dollars. Now if the undersigned shall well and truly pay said sums of money to the said Apple on or before the first day October 1844 then this deed shall be void and of no effect or otherwise the same shall remain in full force and virtue….

Thos D. Cassetty

It is very probable that T.D. approached his father-in-law to be a security for his debts, especially if T.D. couldn’t repay the debts, all of his possessions would go to the father-in-law who would be inclined to return them. Deeds of trust were often made between close family members who wouldn’t take advantage of the ones who owed money.

To me, this is pretty compelling evidence that Anthony was Matilda’s older half brother and David Apple was Matilda’s father.

Two other small pieces of evidence also indicate that David Apple and Mary Thackson Apple were Matilda’s parents. The oldest child, Sarah (my ancestor), was named for T.D.’s mother Sarah, but the second child, Mary, was likely named for Matilda’s mother. If Mary was indeed her mother’s name, then Mary Thackson Apple is a perfect candidate. Even more telling is the fact that T.D. and Matilda named their oldest son David, indicating that either Matilda’s father was David Apple.

1850 Census showing T.D., Matilda, and their oldest children.

The deeds, census records, deeds, and naming patterns all seem to point to David and Mary Thackson as the parents of Matilda Apple.

As a side note, Matilda’s Apple family was of German extraction. Both Matilda’s grandparents, Daniel Apple and Barbara Loffel (Spoon) were from German families. Daniel Apple’s father was an immigrant from the small town of Usenborn, Wetteraukreis, Hessen, Germany, northeast of Frankfurt. He was naturalized with his father and brother in Alsace Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1761.

Nice

Now it is time to tell about the one story I know of Matilda and why it was “nice.”

Matilda and T.D. Cassetty had eight children: Sarah or Sallie, Mary, David, John, William Martin, James Tecumpsah, Sidney, and Olepta. In 1856, T.D. moved the family to Nashville, where he was a successful Justice of the Peace for many years. He was well-known in the city, was often in the newspaper, and was very involved in fraternal societies including the Sons of Temperance (even though that did not dissuade him from occasional public intoxication). The family lived in a very nice house on Spruce Street, employed servants, and allowed Tennessee senators and congressmen to board periodically with them.

1860 Census, showing T.D., Matilda, and their children living in Nashville.

In 1869, the oldest daughter, Sallie, married Samuel D. Robinson, a typographer and Civil War veteran who knew her father through the Sons of Temperance. Sallie and Samuel might have also met through another means. In 1870, Edward “Ned” Apple was living with Matilda, T.D., Sallie, and her new husband Samuel in Nashville. Ned was the son of George Washington Apple, Jr., the son of George Washington Apple, Sr., that would make GW Jr. Matilda’s first cousin and Ned her first cousin once removed. Presumably, Ned had been sent to live with his cousins in Nashville so that he could attend the Tennessee School for the Blind, which was run by Samuel Robinson’s sister, Elizabeth Sturdivant, and brother-in-law, John M. Sturdivant. It is not clear how long Ned had been living with the Cassettys. If he had been sent prior to 1870, somehow the Blind School connection might have been how Sallie and Samuel met.

1870 Census, showing T.D., Matilda, some of their children, cousin Ned, boarders, and their domestic servants.

Eventually, Samuel and Sallie moved out of her parents’ home. Sallie gave birth to only one child, a son, Thomas, in 1873. She died of a stomach tumor in 1886.

Death notice of Sallie Cassetty Robinson.

Thomas’s father, Samuel, only lived until 1891, when he suddenly died of pneumonia. Thomas was only 18 years old, no longer a child, but as he had just finished high school, it would have benefited him greatly if his father had lived longer to help him with work. To make matters more difficult, Samuel never purchased property in Nashville. Instead, he, Sallie, and Thomas moved frequently and rented apartments. So when he died, Thomas had no income and no ability to pay rent.

This is when his widowed grandmother, Matilda, swept in and took care of him. She offered for him to live with her at her home on Line Street, and his uncle William offered him a job as a clerk at the Cassetty Oil Company. Matilda, who had lost her husband a couple of years earlier, was probably glad to have her grandson live with her. Her kindness probably made a big impression on Thomas.

Cassetty residences in Nashville in 1893, the year Matilda died.

Sadly, Matilda did not live long after Samuel’s death. She died of a heart attack on 13 October 1893 and was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville next to T.D. and several of her children.

Record of Matilda’s death in Nashville.

 

Matilda’s death notice.

Though I know very little about her personal life, Matilda must have had a kind heart, particularly when it came to her relatives. She brought her blind cousin into her home so that he could attend a prestigious school for the blind in Tennessee. She also took in her grandson who had lost both parents and the only grandfather he ever knew (T.D.) within the space of five years. I truly believe that without help from his grandmother and uncle, Thomas would have had a very different, and certainly more difficult, life.

Music – “A Delightful Entertainment”

This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is about music, which is near and dear to my heart. My family is very musical; I play the flute and piano, my brother plays the piano and drums, my mom plays the piano, my grandmother plays the piano, and so did my 2x great grandmother, Jessie Robinson, and her sister Bertha. I know that another 2x great grandmother had a piano, so she likely played as well.

Of all of my family, my great great grandmother, Jessie Preston Robinson, was by far the most accomplished. She played the organ at her church in Nashville for many years, and when she was younger, she often performed at musical events. I had heard family stories for years about her talent, but I didn’t realize the extent until I found some of the pieces she played at recitals.

Jessie was born on 20 January 1876 in Zanesville, Ohio to Charles and Cora Preston. Charles was a molder, and in 1881, he was hired by Phillips and Buttorff Manufacturing Company to be the foreman of their foundry. Charles moved to Nashville, and Cora and their children, Jessie and Walter, followed in 1882.

By 1886, Jessie was enrolled in a music course taught by Mrs. Cleveland, though she had likely been playing for several years. She, along with other piano students, exhibited their skills on 15 May 1886:

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A Delightful Little Concert.

There was a delightful little concert last night at the residence of Mr. B. Franklin on Monroe street, given by members of Mrs. Cleveland’s musical class. When it is considered that many of these are children who commenced studying music only last fall, the excellence with which the different numbers were rendered is remarkable. The programme was as follows:

Instrumental duet – “Mountain Glee,” Miss Mary Lee Jones and Miss Jennie Sweeney.

Silver Springs Waltz, Miss Jessie Preston.

Chorus – See Saw Song.

Vocal solo – “Flee as a Bird,” Mr. Percy Cleveland.

Instrumental solo – “Highland Glen March,” Miss Mary Lee Jones.

Chorus – “Come where Flowers Bloom.”

Instrumental solo – “Woodland Echoes,” Miss Maggie Epperson.

Vocal quartet – “Moonlight will Come Again,” Mrs. Cleveland and Messrs. Cleveland.

Instrumental solo – “Blue Mozella Waltz” and “Faust March,” Miss Jennie Sweeney.

Vocal duet – “I Come, I Come,” Miss Edwards and Miss Epperson

Song – “My Cottage Home,” Mrs. Cleveland and sons.

Duet – Heel and Toe Polka, Miss Epperson and Miss Preston.

Instrumental solo – Sonata in E (Lichner) No. 2, Miss Jessie Preston.

Instrumental solo – “Chant de Berger,” Miss Maggie Epperson.

—————-

On February 10, 1888, when Jessie was 12 years old, she participated in another performance of her musical abilities as a student of Mrs. Cleveland. She performed “German Triumphal March” by Jacob Kunkel and “Il Trovatore.”

Here is the first page of the “German Triumphal March.” I was incredibly impressed that Jessie could play this at such a young age! It proves how talented she really was.

Below is the sheet music for “Il Trovatore, a musical selection written by Giuseppe Verdi and arranged for the piano by E. Dorn. It is another complicated piece for a young girl to play.

By 1890, Jessie had left Mrs. Cleveland’s school and was receiving lessons from Professor Emmet Coyle. On 7 June, Jessie and other students performed at the Y.M.C.A.:

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PROF. COYLE’S RECITAL.

A Charming Amateur Entertainment at the Y.M.C.A. Last Night.

The pretty auditorium of the Young Men’s Christian Association building was well filled last night by a representative audience of Nashville’s most cultivated lovers of music. The occasion was a piano recital by the pupils of Prof. Emmet Coyle. Mr. Coyle is a young man of marked ability as a musician and instructor. He has already attained considerable prominence in musical circles with a reputation extending beyond the city. Those of his pupils appearing were Misses Sammie Warren, Jennie Sanders, Rosa Rosenzweig, Lizzie Corder, Lillie Veronee, Emma Englert, Nellie Hagerty, Jessie Preston, Hattie Clarkson, Clara Jungerman, Carrie Zickler, Annie Zickler, Sophie Levy, Ray Flattau and Fannie Flattau, and Masters Frank McDonald, Charlie Sanders, Abe Rosenzweig and Arthur Jungerman. The selections were from classic music and, in the main, quite difficult, but the piano work was good, reflecting praise on both instructor and pupils.

The programme was pleasingly varied by several of Nashville’s talented amateurs, whose appearance is always hailed with pleasure. Mr. Tom Norton McClure sang a pretty selection; Mrs. A. H. Stewart rendered Belline’s Bridal Song; Mr. Robert Nichol sang Verdi’s “Evi Tu Che Macchiavi;” Miss Lillie Pearl Levy sang “Madaline,” from White’s composition, and Miss Mamie Geary and Prof. Coyle rendered DeBeriot’s seventh concerto with piano and violin. Prof. Feliz Heinck, of New York, also appeared. He sings a rich and well cultivated baritone which won especial applause. He has been induced to consider location here.

The entertainment was, on the whole, one of the most thoroughly satisfying of the season.

————–

Sadly, Emmet Coyle died in 1891, and by necessity, Jessie would have found a new musical instructor.

Another reference in the newspaper of a performance in which Jessie took part appeared on 11 February 1894:

Jessie was 18 years old when she played the piano in this recital. I just wish it included what pieces she played! An interesting observation for me was that another performer, Jennie Cassetty, was Jessie’s future husband’s first cousin. This is the first time where I have seen a connection between the two families prior to Jessie and Thomas’s marriage in 1897.

Charles Preston is the man on the left holding the violin.

After learning about Jessie’s musical talents, it made me wonder where her musical ability came from. I honestly did not think I would ever learn this, but then I found a photo in an old family album that answered this question: her father! Jessie’s father, Charles Preston, played the violin, as shown in the photograph below. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything further, and I don’t know who the other man is, but it gives a tantalizing glimpse into the Preston’s family life.

 

It was so much fun to find out that music connects the generations of my family, from the 1850s to the present. And it is very fitting for such a musical family to have lived in Music City! (Nashville)